Rise & Shine - April 8
Race, politics, and religion part 2: What do we want for Redeemer?
The Rise and Shine discussion group meets Sunday mornings at 9:00 am in the Parlor. Adults from the 8:00 & 10:00 services gather for discussions that are relevant to their lives through the lens of a current topic and scriptural references. This week's story can be read or downloaded below.
12 Principles of Racial Integration
Adapted from a sermon by J.D. Greear at the Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, NC
1. Our goal is not just the elimination of racism; it is the achievement of diversification.
Whenever the topic of diversity comes up, a lot of people silently think, “Well, I’m not a racist. So, I’m good on this!” But the point is not simply that you not be a racist (hooray for you). The point is to have integrated your life with others who are not like you as a demonstration of the beauty of the gospel.
Acts 10:28[…] and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.
When God wanted to overcome Peter’s racism, he didn’t just tell him to quit being racist. He told him to embrace Cornelius, to go in and eat with him, to worship with him.
2. Each us of us must elevate his or her ‘third race’.
The “first race” is whatever race you happen to be. “Second race” is the reference point for those unlike you. For the early church, the two races that entered the discussion were predominantly Jew and Gentile. What God does in his church is not to abolish either race, but to initiate a third race, an identity that becomes weightier than any other racial identification.
God is not colorblind, nor should we be. It makes sense that we fit most naturally within our culture. But in Christ, our third race makes the first two races pale in significance. It makes unity possible because it is a unity that goes deeper than cultural styles and preferences.
3. Realize that it is not just about the music.
It is surprising how popular the myth is that music drives diversity. Do you want black people in your church? Play gospel music. Not only does this sort of mentality reinforce the differences between us—many of them based on unfair stereotypes—it also nearly never works. Music matters, but many other things matter much more.
4. Realize that it is about the music.
On one side, there are those who point out that we scream our heads off at football games but won’t do the same for the God of the universe. On the other side, there are those who feel like aggressively “charismatic” worship leaders play on emotion, building crowd dynamics, and then unjustifiably label that “the Spirit.” Neither side is right. What is wrong is for either side to declare the other’s concerns invalid. We have to be open experiencing the divine and sitting next to people who worship in different ways than we do. How do you know you’re part of a multicultural church? At some point you feel uncomfortable!
5. We must prioritize diverse leadership.
Acts 13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler,[a] and Saul.
Just like in Acts 13, racially diverse congregations always have racially diverse leadership. Those on our alter and in positions of leadership can send a welcome signal to people of all races. We have to do this in a way that puts qualified people in positions where they can make real decisions and have real authority.
6. Pre-Revelation 5, racial diversification has its limits.
Certain outreaches are best done on homogenous grounds—athletes reaching athletes, professors reaching professors, and yes, one ethnic group reaching those of their own group. That’s not wrong. Christians should always desire and strive for multiculturalism, but we can’t expect the people we’re reaching to be mature in Christ before we reach them—and embracing other cultures is one sign of maturity. If you pastor in a Mid-Western town in which there are literally no non-white people, and you have an all-white congregation, is your church less of a church than a multi-cultural church in Brooklyn? No. It is appropriate for the Brooklyn church to give multi-cultural unity as a sign of the gospel. But multi-cultural is not a defining element of the church in this age. It is a defining element of the universal church in heaven, and where we can give a sign of that on earth, we should.
7. Multiculturalism is not our primary goal; gospel proclamation is.
Multiculturalism simply isn’t a grand enough vision to sustain a church. The If diversification becomes the one factor that determines whether you think a church is legitimate or not, then diversity has taken on too much weight and has become an idol, displacing God. Multiculturalism is the fruit of the gospel, not the gospel itself.
8. We must devote ourselves to humility and patience.
We can learn from non-white friends what it means to be a part of the majority race. For instance, white parents will never have to sit their kids down and tell them how to overcome the stereotypes people will have about them when they walk in a room, simply because of their race. We’ll never have to coach them in overcoming racism the way African American parents have to. “White privilege” is a reality, and that requires humility.
On the other side, we will also need a lot of patience. Many well-intentioned people will say some really dumb things. We’ll continue to say them, too. But as a body of Christ, we’re one family, and we need to be patient with our family members as we are learning together.
9. Give the “benefit of the doubt” whenever you can.
This is a good rule of thumb in general but is especially relevant in racial discussions: Assume the best about others’ intentions until they prove they have bad ones.
If you assume everyone in the church is racist, you’ll find evidence of it everywhere. But assuming racist motives doesn’t help us grow together as one body, and it certainly won’t change racist attitudes that do exist.
What if you give people the benefit of the doubt, and it turns out they have bad motives? As Paul reminds us, love covers a multitude of sins. Carrying yourself with grace will do more to change our society than crying foul at every possible point.
Is there racism in our society? Yes. Is it in our church? Yes. It is wicked, it is sinful, and we need to repent of it. But the way forward in Christ is found through grace, not condemnation.
10. Acknowledge that your sinful flesh is racist.
Racism isn’t a white thing, or a black thing, or a Latino thing, or an Asian thing. It’s a sinful, depraved, human heart thing, and we all have that in common. As John Owen said, “The seed of every sin is in every human heart.” The less we admit this to ourselves, the greater our blindness. We each need to acknowledge the racism in our hearts, and repeatedly posture ourselves in repentance.
Martin Luther said that all of a Christian’s life is one of repentance. If you have not repented of your racist pride, it’s not because you are free from this sin; it’s because you’re blind to it.
11. Some of us should consider multicultural engagement a “calling.”
A “calling” to multicultural engagement, like a calling to missions, is something that all believers are expected to participate in, but that certain believers will pursue with spirited intentionality. Some of us need to hear the voice of the Spirit and make this our cause. This may be a special calling for some, but we all need to take steps to make this a reality in our lives. We must intentionally form relationships with people outside of our comfort zones, or it simply won’t happen.
12. We are in a kairos moment regarding race.
This is a “kairos” moment for the Church. The racial harmonization that we see sentimentally portrayed in films and on television is simply not accurate. We aren’t going to unite by repeating key phrases like “diversity” and “equality.” Something greater has to unite us, and as Christians, we have a chance to demonstrate what real, amazing, gospel-centered unity looks like.
There is one race, the human race; one problem, sin; one savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; and one hope, the resurrection. Church, let’s not stand in God’s way as God draws the cultures of the world together in one diverse body.
Prayer for the Human Family (BCP p.815)
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.